Editor’s note: The reason for this report remains the same as the first – to seek the truth. This article focuses strictly on the veracity of Coyne’s research and the conclusions of her study. We believe various concepts in the study directly contradict science and eternal truth. We also address the petition’s claims about the Chronicle.
The release of our initial report was primarily due to the discovery of Professor Coyne’s research, which BYU promoted.
Professor Coyne’s study about princess culture “suggests that early engagement with Disney Princess culture tends to be positive for children in the long term.” The children involved showed “more egalitarian attitudes between men and women” as opposed to what Coyne called “hegemonic masculinity.” The term “hegemonic” was redefined as “toxic” in the BYU press release.
The implied message from Coyne’s conclusion and BYU’s press release could be summarized as girls and boys (emphasis on boys) should play with princesses to avoid toxic masculinity. However, the study has several problem areas showing the conclusion was misleading.
The study method consisted of only two surveys, where the child picked their favorite princess. These surveys were five years apart and in two waves; the child’s parent took the first wave survey, and the child took the second wave survey with different questions from the first survey. There was a 49% attrition rate of the participants.
However, there were no control subjects, no consistent follow-ups, and the parents’ judgments were compared to the judgments of the kids five years apart, which may lead to incongruency across time.
Although the conclusion showed children having “more egalitarian attitudes between men and women,” the study also focused on the positive aspects of the influence of androgyny in newer Disney prince and princess characters. The scale used to measure this came from Sandra Bems, who coined “androgyny theory” and raised her kids gender-neutral.
The study viewed “[t]hird-generation” princess and prince characters as “more androgynous.” Male characters in the 3rd generation, such as Kristoff in Frozen, are “portrayed as softer and more feminine.” Examples of third-generation princesses included Moana, Elsa, and Merida, while first-generation princess movies were more in line with traditional gender roles.
As described in the study, this change in princess movies showed “healthier approaches to masculinity” and more “emotionally healthy male characters.” Princesses in these movies are also just as likely to engage in “rescue behaviors as male characters” and are “less likely to have romantic relationships” or express “hegemonic masculinity.”
Coyne defined “hegemonic masculinity” as behavior “typified by aggression, rejection or denial of any weakness, emotional stoicism, homophobia, control, the rejection of anything feminine, and sexual prowess.” Coyne said hegemonic masculinity was “common in previous eras” of princess movies such as Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid.
The favorite princess characters were recorded in both surveys to measure the gender stereotyping attitudes of the kids. More traditional princesses, such as Ariel and Cinderella, were chosen as favorites in the first. However, the top choice of princesses in the first wave among the kids (30%) was Rapunzel from Tangled; Coyne later used Flynn Rider from the Tangled movie as an example of a more androgynous character who has more “depth” and “complexity.”
Rapunzel also exhibits many rescue behaviors and is among the cited “third generation” princesses.
The conclusion fails to mention that the effect on male children was “trivial and uncertain,” yet BYU’s press release used an image of a young boy with a princess book. Despite the lack of evidence on the effect on boys and poor methodology, the messaging was pushing a narrative incongruent with the study results.
Additionally, some of the study questions asked to children in the second wave appeared to be leading questions. One question to determine whether or not a person was stereotypically feminine asked, “I am a kind and caring person.” A Likert scale of 1-7 was used, with one being “never or almost never true” and seven being “always or almost always true.” Another question to determine the level of hegemonic masculinity was, “Fighting others is something I have to do in order to prove myself to friends,” with a Likert scale of 1-4, with one being “strongly disagree” and four being “strongly agree.”
Using the same questions above, the Chronicle conducted a rudimentary poll on its social media page to determine the reliance of the questions and the split between adult men and women. The kind and caring poll resulted in a 5.42 average for men and a 5.5 average for women. The fighting questions had a nearly identical result of 1.29 among men and 1.27 among women. 61% of our Instagram audience is aged 18-34, with the remaining audience in other age groups; It is also 53.9% men and 46% women, according to Instagram insights.
These generations generally did not engage with the 3rd generation’s “androgynous” princess characters due to their age. This is also a two-question poll of an audience rumored to be entrenched with toxic masculinity by several “credible” sources, so it may have biases not accounted for. However, this poll intended to show the similarity of the answers between males and females.
Other statements in the study measured on a Likert scale included, “I like babies and small children a lot” to indicate femininity and, “It is more important for boys than girls to do well in school” for hegemonic masculinity.
Editor in Chief at the Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So you write another negative article on Professor Coyne? How is this anything other than bullying? This is truly unprofessional.
The information you present here regarding Dr. Coyne’s (and her colleagues’!) study is inaccurate. You pick and choose pieces of the article that support your point but they are taken wildly out of context. If you are going to report on a scientific article, you should thoroughly read the entire paper and be sure you understand the science and terminology. The conclusions you draw from your reading of the article are completely unfounded. Please inform yourself before you write about something so as not to spread misinformation!